Youth happiness in the city: children's and adolescent's experiences of happiness in the urban environment of Lima, Peru


Downloads per month over past year

Alfaro, Maria Jesus / M.J. ORCID: (2021). Youth happiness in the city: children's and adolescent's experiences of happiness in the urban environment of Lima, Peru. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

Text - Redacted Version
Available under License All rights reserved.

Download (59MB) | Preview


This thesis explores children’s and adolescents’ everyday experiences of happiness in urban contexts. As such, it sits at the intersection of three wider disciplines: children’s geographies, urban studies, and geographies of wellbeing. Following an experiential and relational approach, the study focuses on the experienced, social, and significant features of the urban space for children and adolescents. Thus, it discusses the role of the city in terms of the physical environment and the emotional attachment to it. To do so, it employed a multi-methodological research programme conducted in Lima, Peru, between the months of March and July 2018. Methods included a qualitative stage comprising a ‘draw, write and tell’ activity (n=126) and a photo mapping activity (n=131), followed by semi-structured interviews (n=33). Also, a 3D Model building activity (n=20) and a participatory design workshop (n=20 children and 9 adults). Likewise, a quantitative in-school social survey was also applied (n=724). Participants were children, aged 8-11 and adolescents, aged 12-16 sampled from different socio-economic groups and geographical areas of the city. In addition, 29 semi-structured interviews were conducted with members of the local government, local practitioners, NGO representatives, and academics.

As a result, the thesis provides four key empirical findings: (1) Children’s and adolescents’ happiness can be conceptualised as fundamentally social, cutting across through all aspects of their everyday lives. (2) Children’s and adolescents’ experiences of urban happiness are likely to be mediated by four urban variables - sociability, accessibility, safety, and environmental quality. (3) Urban spaces, providing experiences of happiness included parks, sport areas, streets, commercial and worshipping spaces; and (4) children’s and adolescent’s happiness in the city appeared to be moderated by context.

In addition, the thesis argues that considering the uniqueness of children’s everyday experiences of happiness in the city is pivotal for developing more equitable and thriving communities for all. Thus, it outlines four actionable recommendations as guidelines for incorporating happiness into urban practice: (1) Urban spaces fostering happiness are clean and have adequate and sufficient suitable urban equipment. (2) Streets and lanes need to be kept in optimum conditions and well maintained to enhance
children’s and adolescents’ experiences of happiness in the city. (3) Neighbourhood safety should be prioritised to amplify children’s and adolescents’ urban happiness; and (4) Urban spaces need to provide children and adolescents with opportunities to socially gather and play, key to their experiences of happiness.

By conducting empirical research in Lima, Peru, the thesis contributes to acknowledge the distinctive experiences of children and adolescents growing up in the socio-spatial segregated and fragmented Latin American urban context. Consequently, the study provided a valuable perspective on the region and the significance of levels of affluence, yielding insights for policy makers and urban practitioners seeking to translate happiness into urban policy and practice. Mainly, for those aiming to rethink the urban
environment from a more child-friendly and human-centred perspective.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
School or Department: School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Funders: Other
Other Funders: Peruvian National Council of Science and Technology – CONCYTEC (contract number 089-2016-FONDECYT-DE)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)


Request a Correction Request a Correction
View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year